Watching Wednesday’s events in the U.S. Capitol building, I was shocked and saddened. The first question I had was, “What does this mean for our country?” Although the College currently is not in session, my thoughts immediately went to you, our students. I wondered about your reactions, ideas and emotions.
Roanoke College offers us wisdom in moments like this, moments that will remain in our memories for a lifetime.
I remind all of us of our core principles as a community. They can serve us well as we try to understand recent events. You might remember the columns (or pillars) presentation and the coins you received during your orientation. They are the four aims of a Roanoke College experience, and represent the deepest values to which we aspire.
I rely on these principles, especially in moments like these, because I contend that the four Roanoke College principles can guide and help us make sense of the world and the chaos and cacophony we saw on Wednesday.
- Care for fellow Maroons. Caring for fellow Maroons means that we respect and listen to one another. Respect for one another and listening to one another are critical for a functioning democracy. When they are absent, misunderstanding and hatefulness ensues. It also means that we do not foster or harbor hate toward others. Hateful attitudes toward others are always wrong. Violent means are never the right way to conduct ourselves. When we see hate or violence in our world, we must call it out or we become complicit. Maroons are a source of good will in the world, and we carry that responsibility in life.
- Serve others. Always serve others. We start each year with a Habitat for Humanity house construction to remind us of how important it is to help make the world a better place for all. We are called to make the world better for other humans. We especially are called to serve and help the most vulnerable members of society. That is the Maroon Way, and it is a good guide as we think about our relationships with others.
- Pursue truth. Pursue truth in all that you do. This statement sounds simple, but we know it to be the most difficult of our college aims to practice. To pursue truth does not mean we find it or that we alone possess it. That attitude requires humility about understanding the flaws in our positions. Others may understand things differently in their pursuit of truth. That requires listening to others.
Pursuit of truth seems elusive at times, but at Roanoke College, we hold a conviction that civil debate and discussion can help our pursuit of truth. We also believe that reason is critically important in our lives together. Our opinions should be informed by reason and facts. Few things are more destructive than distorted or false facts.
- Do your personal best in each area. Do your best, especially in your efforts to care for others, serve others and pursue truth. Together, we can make a difference. The Roanoke pillars call on us to never be lazy or complacent in our efforts. It is hard to do our best at all times, and sometimes we will fail. But we keep trying, in an effort to be the best citizens we can be.
Chaplain Chris will hold open forum discussions on Zoom Wednesday, Jan. 12, at noon and Thursday, Jan. 13, at 4 p.m. A link will be sent to students and we hope you will participate.
At Roanoke College, we do not tell you what to think; we help you learn how to think. I believe the four pillars are part of how we can learn and become better citizens. From what we witnessed Wednesday, clearly great citizen-leaders are needed.
I make two more observations and one offer:
Caring, serving, and pursuing truth, to the best of our ability, are critically important. There are tremendous national and international challenges before us. We have a sharply divided nation. We have a raging health crisis. We have perplexing economic challenges. We have insidious racial issues.
There is great need for urgency. What is our calling as Maroons? I ask that you make your best effort to address any and all of these problems. Roanoke College wants to assist you with the tools to help you address our society’s problems and sustain our society’s strengths. That reality is the most important “Why?” of a Roanoke education, and it is because of the promise that lies in all Maroons that I have great hope in our future.
The offer to you is simple: We want to provide an opportunity for you to share your thoughts about and reactions to events of this week. Chaplain Chris has offered to hold open forum discussions on Zoom next Wednesday, Jan. 12, at noon and on Thursday, Jan. 13, at 4 p.m. A link will be sent to you separately and we hope you will participate.
We miss your presence on campus and keep you in our thoughts daily.
President Mike Maxey